The day when an Uber rider jumps in a car without a driver looks to be coming closer, after a vehicle involved in the company’s driverless car project was spotted tootling about the streets of Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania city is the location of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, which opened soon after the ride-hailing service revealed its self-driving car ambitions in February.
The San Francisco-based company has chosen to be less than discreet about its test runs, with the words “Uber” and “Advanced Technologies Center” seen emblazoned across the side of its adapted car, a Ford Fusion. A bunch of hardware perched atop the vehicle also helped it to stand out. Uber confirmed to the Pittsburgh Business Times this week that the vehicle is part of the company’s “early research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems.”
Uber has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University for its research into autonomous vehicles, and recently started hiring experts in robotics, machine learning, traffic simulation, vehicle testing, and software and hardware development.
The company’s ambitions in this particular area have been known for some time, with CEO Travis Kalanick stating in 2014 that he could well imagine Uber moving from cars with drivers to driverless vehicles.
Of course, Uber isn’t the only outfit pursuing such technology. Traditional car makers such as Nissan and Audi are working on their own projects, and Google’s ongoing efforts in the space have been extensively documented.
Uber cars without anyone behind the steering wheel could certainly enable the company to drastically cut costs, as well as help it avoid the kind of damaging headlines generated by a handful of its drivers regarding alleged incidents.
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